The Brass Elephant is a bar? Sure, we all know it has a bar--how else would you get your predinner aperitif? For us, though, the modest watering hole above Mount Vernon's bastion of haute cuisine is a destination itself. While folks dressed to the nines dine to classical strains downstairs, we repair to the second-floor lounge, where the restaurant's classy sophistication is distilled into a distinctive, ever-so-slightly funky cocktail of Victorian fixtures, overstuffed chairs, and the bartender's CD collection, which leans agreeably toward early-'70s FM (Bob Marley, Exile on Main Street). The atmosphere is convivial, conversational, even kick-off-your-shoes after the after-work crowd thins out. The Elephant doesn't offer much for beer fiends (no taps and a tolerable but uninspired bottle selection), but there's no better place in Baltimore's most casually elegant neighborhood for a casually elegant drink. Kick back with a highball, a glass of Spanish brut, or a whisky (more than a dozen single-malts, reasonably priced) and get something from the excellent bar menu, like the superb crab-and-shrimp linguini or a mozzarella en carozza so good one hesitates to call it "fried cheese." You can also order from the full dining room menu, but that would kind of spoil the fun, wouldn't it?